When I received a phone call from Gov. Mitch Daniels and Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman in December asking me to be Indiana's first agriculture director, I was overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation for this new venture. It is an honor to be part of such a historical moment in Indiana agriculture, and I believe we have recruited an expert team of experienced professionals to lead the way.
Indiana needed a department of agriculture. Agriculture is not only a part of our state's heritage and culture, but it also plays a prominent role in our economy—past, present and future. However, Indiana was one of only four states in the nation without a stand-alone state department of agriculture. Nationally, we were not playing on the same level as other states. Within state government, there was not a dedicated agricultural advocate to the governor or to other state departments and agencies.
Gov. Daniels and Lt. Gov. Skillman recognized agriculture as a priority in our state, and, just four days into office, announced the creation of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA). Now Indiana's agriculture industry has two advocates to the governor—the lieutenant governor adds Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development to her duties, and I serve as the state's agriculture director.
ISDA's responsibilities are to advance Indiana's agricultural economy and be an advocate for Hoosier farmers. And, like a business, we wanted to be governed by a strategic plan with specific metrics to mark achievements toward our vision. After comprehensive research into our past, looking at our current situation and pinpointing where we needed to be in the future, we identified seven strategies to achieve an aggressive vision to make Indiana a global center for food and agriculture innovation and commercialization.
The strategic priorities include increasing the competitiveness of our high-quality hardwoods products, maximizing our competitive advantage in bioenergy, revitalizing pork production, and having Indiana agriculture participate in national and global policy issues. The department will also work to improve regulatory issues involving agriculture, identify diversified production models for all Indiana farmers and incubate innovative food products that use Indiana agricultural commodities to support nutritious and healthy diets.
In May, we had the privilege of talking with nearly 950 Hoosiers throughout the state over a four-day period during our rollout tour for Possibilities Unbound: The Plan for 2025, the strategic plan for Indiana agriculture.
The most exciting thing is the number of people and organizations that want to partner with us. From livestock and commodity organizations to individual farmers and corporations, it seems that all of agriculture can find something exciting within the plan.
We anticipate that Purdue Agriculture will be one of our most constant partners. A critical component of this vision is "innovation and commercialization." Purdue Agriculture's research will lead to innovation in many areas that are key to our strategies, whether the focus is on manure odor reduction or hardwoods scanning. And the Department of Food Science—the largest in the nation—will be an important partner in our food processing strategy.
As new technologies are discovered, it will be vital to get them into the hands of the industry. I am confident that Purdue Extension will step in and help with educational efforts and that well-prepared College of Agriculture graduates will become the agricultural industry's future members and leaders.
Purdue Agriculture is just one of the many partners that will help us lead Indiana agriculture into the future. If you have not already done so, I urge you to read Possibilities Unbound: The Plan for 2025, Indiana Agriculture's Strategic Plan. I believe that you can find something within the plan to encourage you to think beyond what you are already doing and make a greater contribution to Indiana agriculture.
Andy Miller graduated from Purdue University in 1992 with a degree in agricultural economics. Prior to being named director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, he spent most of his career working in the food industry. An Indiana native, Miller was raised on a grain and hog farm in DeKalb County.